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AAT vs. CIMA: Which Accountancy Qualification is Better?

Becoming an accountant is an exciting venture, however, it can be a little bit overwhelming choosing the right route to getting there when there are so many qualifications to choose from.

To help you narrow down your choices and select the best qualification for you, below we compare two of the most well-known accountancy qualifications, AAT and CIMA, to give you a better idea of what career path will suit your learning and lifestyle.

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AAT Qualifications

AAT, or what’s better known as The Association for Accounting Technicians, is the UK’s leading professional accountancy body, offering the practical skills you need, no matter where you’re at in your finance career.
Recognised for its prestigious qualifications in over 90 countries with over 125,000 members worldwide, AAT’s qualifications demonstrate the benchmark for respected accountancy courses that employers look for in their current and future employees.

AAT’s accountancy courses are available at three levels, depending on where you’re at in your career, including:

- The Level 2 Certificate in Accounting (with no formal entry requirements!)
- The Level 3 Diploma in Accounting, and
- The Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting

Each of these qualifications offers you the opportunity to progress in your studies and your career, eventually allowing options for you to:

- Set up your own accounting practice and become your own boss
- Apply for highly sought after roles at accounting firms and in-house departments, or
- Move on to a fast-track programme to becoming a Chartered Accountant (with CIMA, if you so choose)

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CIMA Qualification

Based in the UK, The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is a leading global professional management accounting body, with more than 115,000 members to date. As their name suggests, CIMA’s qualifications have a more specific focus on management accounting and are ideal if you’re looking to work in managerial accounting roles within a mid to large-sized organisation.

In particular, CIMA’s qualifications provide a great foundation for finance as well as a comprehensive understanding of business practice.

If you’re new to the accounting and finance world, you can get started by enroling on the entry-level CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting. Similar to AAT, there are no formal entry requirements to get the ball rolling.

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Which is Better?

When comparing AAT and CIMA qualifications, the question isn’t really ‘which is better?’, but rather ‘which qualification is better for you?’

You’ll want to take into account whether you’ll be studying full-time or part-time and how flexible and how affordable you need your qualification to be. This will be especially important when choosing the right provider.

Some providers (like us!), for example, offer combination courses at affordable rates that allow you to progress your career by studying two AAT levels at one time. Like the single courses, these combination courses are available for you to study at your pace, on your own time, on your own terms.

You’ll also want to have a long hard look at what direction you want to take your career in before choosing an AAT or CIMA qualification. Are you looking for a basic understanding of the fundamentals of accountancy or are you looking to go the distance and excel in an account management career?

For example, AAT qualifications can lead you into financial roles such as:

- Accounts Assistant
- Payroll Manager
- Tax Manager, or
- Finance Analyst

CIMA qualifications, on the other hand, are great if you’re looking to become a:

- Financial Accountant
- Financial Manager
- Chartered Accountant 
- Management Controller, or
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

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So, now what?

The good news is that both AAT and CIMA offer the option to study in-person, online or through a mix of both, so no matter which option you choose, you know you’re in good hands.

If you still can’t decide, keep in mind that if you become AAT qualified and complete the AAT Level 4 Professional Diploma, you’ll be exempt from the CIMA Certificate and can immediately enrol straight into CIMA on their Professional qualification instead.

This course focuses on the transformation of the digital world and how it relates to finance professionals. It will teach you technical accounting and finance skills but also hone in on how digitalisation and fast changes in technology are creating both challenges and opportunities for accountants and organisations alike. 

In other words, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a confident management accounting professional, ready to lead your organisation to sustainable and long-term success. So, remember that when it comes to AAT or CIMA, your choice should be based on your goals and which qualification you see taking you that one extra step further in your career.

We hope this blog has helped you understand whether an AAT or CIMA qualification is better for you. If you’re still not sure, we have a variety of course advisors on hand to help set you on the right track.

Good luck!


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